Lisa Yuskavage - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Lisa Yuskavage, January 5 - February 3, 2001; Geneva, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Lisa Yuskavage, May 17 - August 26, 2001; New York, C&M Arts, Naked Since 1950, October 11 - December 8, 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    Each and every one of Lisa Yuskavage’s luxurious works is fundamentally about the nature of meaning and desire as expressed through painting. Her paintings are exquisitely rendered, depicting highly charged images of young women and revealing a deeper level of purpose or intent. Yuskavage’s work simultaneously addresses myriad issues, some more clearly and overtly than others. In experiencing her work, these conflicting tensions well up within the viewer, delivering a highly keyed aesthetic impact. As Yuskavage, who rarely discusses the meaning of her work has stated, “I only load the gun”. This simple, yet poignant statement implies that regardless of the subject matter, to her, it’s all about the set up, and that the “best way to approach [her] work is to recognize what it makes you think about and then think of the
    opposite” (Yuskavage in conversation with Robert Enright, “The Overwhelmer: The Art of Lisa Yuskavage”, Border Crossings, no. 103, August 2007, pp. 36-48).

    Yuskavage, with her confrontational approach, seems intent to simultaneously oth seduce and repel the viewer. She asks us both to look and admire her ensual (although often exaggerated) nude girls and at the same time to move ast the notion of the traditional “male gaze”. Positing a new way to engage he desire of the eye, Yuskavage sets out to examine the expanse between nd interconnections within the worlds of 1970s soft focus pornography and raditional images of the female beauty as rendered by old master such as Vermeer, Bellini, Bronzino and Rembrandt. As Enright recounts, “Yuskavage has remarked that one of her intentions was to combine Rembrandt with colour-field painting to which she might have added, and the sensibility of early Penthouse magazine” (Yuskavage in conversation with Robert Enright, “The Overwhelmer: The Art of Lisa Yuskavage”, Border Crossings, no. 103, August 2007, pp. 36-48).

    From her exploration of art history, Yuskavage has gleaned many lessons from masters both old and new on how to handle perspective, employ color, and reproduce light and texture in order to captivate the viewer. She claims, however, in her discussion with Enright that one must be careful when doing so, and to ensure that you approach your own practice with a firm sense of yourself in the present, otherwise you would end up producing some sort of anachronistic art, a fear of being out of time. It is the fusion of the technical skill and mastery of these classic techniques that she employs coupled with her contemporary renderings of the most widely utilized subject matter in the Western world, the female nude, which allows for Yuskavage’s work to so successfully communicate a more robust and conflicted vision of feminine beauty.

    Besides the obvious tangible result of her process, her paintings are imbued with the power to transcend the boundaries or template of typical nude female imagery and force a second, deeper look or investigation into several paradoxes including “voyeurism and exhibitionism, feminism and misogyny and the personal and the psychosocial.” (C. Viveros-Fauné, “Cursed Beauty: The Painting of Lisa Yuskavage and the Goosing of the Great Tradition”, Lisa Yuskavage, Mexico City, 2006, p. 62). The first two of these paradoxes, voyeurism and exhibitionism and feminism and misogyny, mainly pertain to her works’ relationship to pornography. Yuskavage readily admits that her work is indeed indebted in some ways to pornography, and Peter Schjeldahl relates that her work “paraphrases images of girlie pulchritude from old skin
    magazines and from photographs that she takes of models” (P. Schjeldahl, “Girls, Girls, Girls: Lisa Yuskavage raises trashiness to high art”, The New Yorker, January 15, 2001, p. 100). In some cases it is quite a direct and literal correlation as with her 1999-2000 work, Night, while in other cases she is more in debt to the style which Penthouse founder and photographer Bob Guccione employed in the early issues of the magazine. But as Marcia Hall asserts, “Her art comments more upon the culture that surrounds us with such images than upon the babelicious damsels themselves. Yet, it is about the gaze, but, more, it comments upon the culture that consumes such
    images”. (M. B. Hall, “Lisa Yuskavage’s Painterly Paradoxes”, Lisa Yuskavage, Philadelphia, 2001, p. 23). Thus in a way, Yuskavage removes the sex, or at least the politics of pornography, and asks us to examine not only ourselves but also how we and society view women today.

    Schjeldahl notes that through her work “Yuskavage illuminates present feminine discontents” and asks, “How can a girl develop a satisfactory body image in a world of industrialized sex and glamour? She can’t.” (op cit, p. 101). It is this concern among others, which greatly interest Yuskavage (as well as fellow British female painter Jenny Saville). Furthermore, as Roberta Smith points out, “Yuskavage has approached this form from both the outside and the inside: her distortions exaggerate the way women are objectified both by society and by themselves. But her real subject is, I think, the inside, the female soul and psyche.” (R. Smith, “A Painter Who Loads the Gun and the Let’s the Viewer Fire It”, The New York Times, January 12, 2001, p. E53). Thus the attractive, voluptuous and engaging compositions she presents us with
    are a means of inviting us in to examine both the inner soul of her art, but more importantly that of today’s women. I believe Smith would agree that the manner in which she does this produces works that are compassionate yet staggeringly harsh; playful and yet forcefully introspective.

    Her work does not lay any blame or make any attacks, however. Yuskavage merely points out what she herself experiences and sees in herself. As she commented in a conversation with Chuck Close, “I have no interest in pointing the finger anywhere but at myself … I am interested in making work about how things are rather than how they should be. I exploit what’s dangerous and what scares me about myself: misogyny, self-deprecation, social climbing, the constant longing for perfection. My work has always been about things in myself that I feel incredibly uncomfortable with and embarrassed by.” (Yuskavage, in “Interview: Chuck Close Talks with Lisa Yuskavage”, Lisa Yuskavage, New York, 1996, pp. 20-31).

    As Yuskavage’s career progresses, so does her style continue to develop. Subtle shifts over the past two decades have given way to the maturation of both her ideas and her ability to address them. In 2000 one shift in particular led to some of her most important and successful pictures, including the present lot. Northview (Impressionist Jacket), 2000 is one of a series of seven large scale works that Yuskavage painted around a similar theme. Here she departs somewhat from her previous work in that she has eliminated the plain, monochromatic backgrounds that were so typical of her previous works, and instead fills the space with lush, richly decorated interiors thereby
    animating the figures contained within them and adding a new level of refinement and compositional complication. Yuskavage seems to be more fully engaging with the old master tradition by creating livelier and even more conventional settings for her compositions. Regardless, these paintings, as Smith illustrates, “With their elaborate country house interiors … suggest a more real, more sophisticated world. Their occupants seem almost normal, possibly career women, and are in charge of their lives and their pleasures. Some exude a postorgasmic glow, others just seem grateful to be sitting down after a long day.” (R. Smith, “A Painter Who Loads the Gun and the Lets the Viewer Fire It”, The New York Times, January 12, 2001, p. E53). Northview (Impressionist Jacket), 2000, in addition to being a sublime example of Yuskavage’s breathtaking and flawless paintings, takes her work to a higher level, as all of her technical and ideological concerns and intentions seem to have truly coalesced lending the work the ability to both please and incite.

    At the end of the day, Marcia Hall puts it best when she states “Lisa Yuskavage wants seriously to paint. She believes in the transforming beauty of pigment suspended in oil on canvas, and the ability of that beauty to suggest transcendence. She paints the shallow, the vulgar, the heedless as if it were profound, elegant, meditative, thereby reminding us obliquely of the absence of these qualities and the enduring possibility of their renascence.” (M. B. Hall, “Lisa Yuskavage’s Painterly Paradoxes”, Lisa
    Yuskavage
    , Philadelphia, 2001, p. 23).

Ο ◆16

Northview (Impressionist Jacket)

2000
Oil on linen.
70 1/8 x 40 1/2 in. (178.1 x 102.9 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated “Yuskavage © 2000 ‘Northview (Impressionist Jacket)’” on the reverse.

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,082,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York